Six years old. Blonde, beautiful, blue eyed little girl. Smiling constantly, always looking for good. The oldest of 3, all born within three years of one another. A motherly sort, always watching out for her little siblings. An artist, who was never without her markers and paper, always ready to draw a picture or make a card for someone.
These words have been used to describe little Emilie Parker, one of the students at Sandy Hook Elementary, who was taken from this world far too soon.
As I listened to this description, I couldn't believe the similarities to my own 6 year old. Every. single. thing. sounded like they were talking about her. When I heard the part about the markers, I let out a gasp. I felt like I owed it to these lives lost, to listen to their parents talk about them, to learn a little about them - as painful as it is, I just felt like I should? And every story I hear, and face that I see breaks me a little more. There's this combination of helpessness, sadness, and fear that I haven't been able to shake. And my Christmas spirit? Gone.
I walked the kids to the bus stop this morning and hugged my first grader longer and harder than ever before. I must have said "I love you" a thousand times. When the bus pulled up, I felt the tears forming in my eyes. Not letting anyone see, I quickly pulled myself together until it drove away. I walked into the house and lost it.
And I realized something I can do to honor these families.
I can love.
I have never loved on my children or had so much patience in these past 6 years as I have this weekend. I don't think I've raised my voice once, but instead tried to listen to them more and hear every word they have to say. I can keep doing that, or at least work really hard at it.
I can not let this horrible, unthinkable thing define those precious lives, and live mine as best I can for them.
I can be more in the moment with my children, because they are HERE. God knows none of us have a clue what tomorrow will bring, and at the end of the day, I want them to feel how happy they make me.
I can step away from the computer and the emails and bake cookies and make gingerbread houses instead.
I can savor Christmas with my children because I know that's what those little ones would be doing if they were here. We will celebrate for them, instead of weep for them. It seems like an impossible task, but I will dig deep and find that Christmas spirit somewhere, somehow.
Life is to be lived, and we don't know for how long. So instead of worrying every minute of every day when I send my babies out in the world, I'm going to channel that energy into prayer and trust in God that He's with them.
I'm sure the families of those taken on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary wish they could have more time with their angels.
So in their loving memory, I will devote more time to mine.
Love harder and stronger than you ever have before, friends. The world needs it more than ever.
Let love win.